A rapid succession of reported floor collapses over the weekend has evicted 11 students from their houses and caused the University of Dayton to immediately amend the student housing contract to include occupancy limits on university-owned houses.
Two floors of university-owned houses broke during the early morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 19, in separate incidents at 1522 Frericks Way and 118 Lawnview Ave. Both residences were hosting parties at the time of the incidents. University officials attribute an additional Tuesday, Jan. 22 floor incident at 218 Kiefaber St. to termite damage.
“We have an issue here with our student houses,” said Chris Schramm, dean of students. “As educators and administrators we have to make sure we are ensuring the safety of our students”
Schramm went on to say, “Our houses are safe under reasonable conditions.” She also identified large parties with people jumping around as an unreasonable condition.
The university will assign all UD-owned housing a maximum occupancy limit. The limits will be between 6-19 people per house or apartment.
Dayton Fire Department responded at approximately 12:50 a.m. on Saturday to a report of a hazardous condition at 1522 Frericks Way. According to DFD, university officials informed the department upon arrival that “the living room floor partially collapsed during a party in which at least 50 students were in the room.” University officials say the floor dropped 7-to-8 inches.
According to the DFD, the house was evacuated and crews entered the basement. There the crew found six broken two-by-eight floor joists. The department said the gas lines directly under the floor showed no damage or leaks.
Around the same time, a floor at 118 Lawnview Ave. buckled during a party. University officials state the residents of the house did not report the incident until around 10 a.m.
University officials convened on Monday, Jan. 21, to discuss the crisis. At the meeting, university officials identified what they called the “common denominator” among the incidents: the large number of people in the house. They also decided to reimburse students for the weekend’s food expenses.
On Tuesday, Jan. 22, the university publicly responded to the incidents with an email to upperclassman residents of university housing, placing responsibility for preventing further incidents on students.
“In light of these events, upperclass students who reside in University-owned houses and apartments will receive notices of occupancy limits for their particular residence later this week,” said Bill Fischer, vice president for Student Development, in the email.
“Effective immediately, your housing contract will be amended to include these occupancy limits. These limits have been developed based on the recommendations of a structural engineer, and the limits will vary by structure.”
According to Fischer’s email, the university expects student tenants “to manage the number of people inside your house or apartment to ensure that the number does not exceed the occupancy limit.”
“We expect you to be responsible tenants,” Fischer’s email said.
Fischer’s email said students “will be held accountable for failing to comply with their assigned occupancy limits and may be held financially responsible for any damage to their University-owned housing that may result — just as any tenant in a typical landlord-tenant relationship would be.”
Fischer’s email recommended students not enter overcrowded houses or apartments, and asked students to report “obvious occupancy limit” violations and houses or apartments with extra stress on the floor immediately to Public Safety at 937-229-2121.
In terms of enforcing the maximum occupancy limit for residences, Fischer is hoping students will influence each other to abide by the maximum occupancy limits.
“This will be a peer-influencing-peer situation,” Fischer said.
“Students are expected to comply with the occupancy number, if they don’t they will be at fault for failure to comply,” he said.
This means if students have a party and Public Safety is called for another reason, the student could also be written up for a violation of their occupancy level if more than the number of students allowed are in the house.
If there are damages to the house and the maximum occupancy level of the house was violated, then the student may be responsible for the cost of repair.
Then, on Tuesday afternoon, the residents of 218 Kiefaber St. alerted the university to an unstable floor. The Dayton Fire Department was called to inspect the floor. Crews determined there was a “soft spot” in the floor “due to uneven floor joist from [a] previous repair.”
The floor in the house was sinking down from the wall and a heating vent had sunk roughly two inches into the basement.
According to Dayton Daily News, the Dayton Fire Department initially told the residents the house was uninhabitable due to the condition of the floor, but a UD maintenance official overruled the fire department allowing the students to stay.
University officials announced in a meeting Wednesday that the issue at 218 Kiefaber was actually a result of termite damage. The university said it is currently repairing the termite damage and has repaired the sinking vent.
“This has been a really rough weekend, we came together to ensure the safety of our students and the uniqueness of our student neighborhood,” said Schramm. “Houses will be assessed so that we can have some relative peace and this won’t happen.”
Bruce Bullman, director of residential properties, said the limits were computed after a number of factors were taken into account including: the year the house was built, additional weight of objects in the house, the structural integrity of the house and square footage.
The new Caldwell apartments will also have a maximum occupancy limit of eight people, he said
Schramm emphasized the need for an occupancy limit for safety, but did address student concern over the administration trying to control the neighborhoods.
“I’ve been at the university since 1989, I’ve heard the rumor that we are taking away the Ghetto,” she said. “We have yet to do that.”
Editor-in-chief Chris Moorman contributed reporting.